BY LAURA HULL MORRIS.
Music is not a play game, or sensuous pleasure merely to tickle the ear; it means something. The world is awake to its importance. We want intellectuality in music; nothing more develops the imagination and perceptions; nothing more fixes habits of accuracy and correct study, and this, added to persistence and concentration, will aid us in all mental effort.
Browning has said: “Life means learning to abhor the false and love the true.” Let this also be said of music, and in the promotion of the best of arts, let it broaden the sympathies; let it lead to higher purpose, to higher standards of manhood and womanhood, and in trying to eliminate self guard that individuality which all have a right to, and which every student’s work should in time show; that originality which invests with such a charm his efforts. To reach this higher development, strive through conventional avenues of study.
Say not that musicians are sometimes jealous of each other, lest the neighbors hear this and say, “Alas! for the status of their art?” Cannot we learn of each other? Cannot coöperation do much more? Cannot pupils be taught by fair example to discriminate between the good and the bad? If teachers do not this, music falls far short of its mission. There is no need to herald the good or publish and execrate the spurious; there is a process in all things, as in the separation of the dross from the gold—different in its nature, but as sure. “Time is the touchstone which proves the prophet from the boaster.”
The feverish haste of some students—I may say most students—is deplorable. The beauties do not often lay on the surface; it takes digging to bring up these gems of surprising beauty and great delight, and this delving process advances the musical taste, the technic, and gains in every way in musical form. Upon every student’s music rack should be inscribed, “Learn to hasten slowly.” Americans, though highly talented, are prone to rush, and not over-willing to take the discipline which is so necessary to the musician.
All do not wish to be professionals, but for the love of everything that is beautiful do not say to the children that you care for them “only to play a little.” There is no demand for mediocrity in anything. If they were painting a picture, you would not say, “it makes little difference how you do it: you may use the reds for the yellows, or the blues for the greens—it is just a little I want you to learn.” Music is tone pictures. “Sounds paint hues, and colors melt in harmony.” What if we never reach our ideals, and they recede and grow further away from us as we approach them? Are we not climbing while we are striving toward them?
There are pastorales and barcaroles, and cradle songs and nocturnes ad infinitum. Would you have your daughter play a berceuse without the rhythm of the rocking cradle and the tenderness of the mother’s song? Would you not have her play a nocturne, which suggests the evening and moonlight, or a barcarole, which takes you back to some picture in your own life, when there were songs upon the water?
There is a niche for all conscientious amateurs.
Amateur means lover. Amateur in music means lover of music. So all artists are, or should be, amateurs.
I was never more impressed, nay, edified, than when a few years ago, in Leipzig, I went to the old “Thomas Kirche,” replete with the associations and memories of more than six hundred years. Here Bach had played the organ. On this occasion Mendelssohn’s beautiful hymn, “Hear My Prayer,” was given with brass, string and organ accompaniment to perhaps a hundred voices, ranging from the falsetto of young boys to the basso profundo and tenore robusto of middle-aged men; and when “Hoer mein Flehen” rang out in all its color and shading, I could think of nothing but heaven.
Ah! that was a Mecca to musicians, and was well worth the pilgrimage.
As the miner digs for the gold, and as the geologist looks for the crystal center of the geode, so the honest and earnest teacher seeks for talent among his students.
Those who have succeeded in business affairs, they of the professions who have drunk a deep draught from the Pierian spring, as well as musicians, may exclaim with Balzac: “What torments success is made of! What obstacles to overcome: at times what discouragements!” Then Browning comes with his comforting assurance that “Success is naught—endeavors all.” Upon analyzing we find that all success is comparative; that when we reach the goal we had marked out for ourselves there is still such an inviting unexplored vista beyond, that the pleasure is in the trying—ceasing to try is stagnation.
“For it is faith in something and enthusiasm for something that make a life worth looking at.”Etude Magazine. April, 1895